In terms of venture capital flowing into the industry, Israel had a bumper year in 2016, raising $4.8 billion in funds, up 11 percent from 2015, according to an IVC-ZAG report. But the same firms note a slowdown in the first quarter of 2017 to $1.03 billion. That’s 4 percent down, or what IVC’s Simana calls, “a minor drop”.
What concerns the IVC CEO more is the change in the balance of investments, from early stage to late stage, a phenomenon that is also apparent elsewhere, notably in Silicon Valley. The difference is, says Simana, that in the U.S. the volume of investments is decreasing while in Israel it’s still increasing. Even so, attracting early stage investment remains important to keep feeding the pipeline of start-ups.
“We call for early stage investors and tell them right now there are opportunities. There’s less competition. More risk but less competition,” says Simana. “If they want to be in the competitive landscape going forward, they should be in the early stage.”
The type of investors interested in Israeli high-tech is shifting from North America to Asia, as the Playtika acquisition shows. Chinese investors have discovered the country and PwC in its report also notes that they, “are growing increasingly comfortable with doing deals in Israel.” Medved and Simana too notice growing interest from Asia but Simana qualifies this: “Definitely at the moment U.S. and European investors are the dominant ones in the industry.”
U.S. interest in Israeli high-tech is long-established and Israeli companies have the third biggest presence on the NASDAQ, after the U.S. itself and China. In the past there has been a perception that many North Americans who invest in Israel do so to support the country. But, says Medved, that’s only part of the story: “There’s plenty of them but it’s way beyond that now. It’s just good business. I don’t think people are investing emotionally or with their political or religious believes as the driver.”
When it comes to what particular high-tech field to invest in, there’s a lot to choose from. According to Kandal of Start-up Nation Central, it’s exactly the ability to work across different technologies that makes Israel so competitive. “There are a lot of different sectors. You can be in cybersecurity and digital health. You can be in cars and software. You have enough density for all of those to give you a buzz.”